The Iowa caucuses spelled the end for Michele Bachmann, but Forsyth County Republican leaders say the race for the party’s presidential nomination is still anyone’s game.
"It’s just a way for us to get a feel for the folks in Midwestern American and who they want to represent them," said Ethan Underwood, chairman of the Forsyth County Republican Party.
"I think the Iowa caucuses are important for creating momentum … and I think it’s still a wide open field, at least through the South Carolina primary (on Jan. 21). Once we get to South Carolina, we’ll see certain candidates drop off."
Republican presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum led the field in Iowa, each garnering about 25 percent of the vote Tuesday, with Romney edging Santorum by just eight votes.
Ron Paul placed third with 21 percent of the vote, followed by Newt Gingrich with 13 percent, Perry with 10 percent, Bachmann with 5 percent, and Jon Huntsman at 1 percent.
Peggy Green, chairwoman of the Republican Women of Forsyth County, said she wasn’t expecting Santorum’s recent ascent.
"That was a pleasant surprise," she said. "He’s worked as hard as any candidate I’ve ever seen, so I think his standing was well deserved."
Next up for the candidates is the New Hampshire Primary on Jan. 10. Georgia’s presidential preference primary is March 6.
Iowa was the first state this year to hold caucuses or a primary.
Though Romney drew the most votes Tuesday, Iowa’s process still involves county and state conventions. Its presidential nomination will not be made until the latter in June.
The Iowa caucuses can have a dramatic impact on some candidates, like Bachmann, who announced Wednesday morning she was dropping out. It also caused Perry to reassess his campaign for a few hours before deciding to stay in.
But the caucuses also don’t necessarily set the tone for which candidate will lead in the process.
Mzike Huckabee performed best in the 2008 Iowa Republican caucuses, with Romney placing second. The eventual Republican nominee, John McCain, came in fourth.
Still, the results are more conclusive than polls and set the tone for New Hampshire’s primary Jan. 10, Underwood said.
"The Iowa caucuses are where Republicans get motivated and it creates momentum for a particular candidate, but it doesn’t at all determine delegates," he said. "I’m not surprised at anything that happens at the Iowa caucuses.
"I think more telling is going to be when we see the New Hampshire and South Carolina [primaries]."
As far as momentum for Santorum, Green said she doesn’t "think he’s got the money to do that, but it was a good showing."
Underwood said it’s likely Santorum’s conservative views gave him the edge in Iowa.
"He’s probably the most socially conservative of the candidates, which makes the most sense in Iowa," he said. "Gay marriage was judicially [permitted] in Iowa, and the electorate immediately put out the three supreme court justices who approved that.
"So I think Iowa is dealing with social issues and not necessarily the economic issues that the rest of the country is dealing with."
Green, who is a Gingrich supporter, said she was disappointed but not surprised he didn’t perform better.
"He weathered a lot of attacks over the last few weeks, and so we sort of anticipated that he’d be pushed back in the polls," she said.
The real surprise for Green was Paul, she said.
"I’m always a little puzzled by some of his comments and his followers," she said. "I’m sure he’s a nice guy, but his foreign policy kind of stops me cold."
With Iowa out of the way, the focus has shifted to New Hampshire.
While he supports the primary process, Underwood said he hopes it’s a quick one.
"[It] is healthy … but the constraining factor is that it does drain resources, so I’m hopeful that we will pick a candidate sooner rather than later," he said. "But I want it to be after good debate and an opportunity for voters to really know their candidate."